Europe Trails – 1, getting started

This is my second holiday this year where I jumped to conclusions a bit too soon. That whole thing about wide eyed wonder? Boy did that go straight out of the window at the sight of every cliched postcard coming to life here in Switzerland. Seriously, wtf is this place!? You remember Gulmohar Graded English Course and fairy tales hidden behind course books? And Alice In Wonderland and Mark Twain and fenced houses and tree lined paths, and that whole other world out there when you were growing up in a dusty (very!) heartland of the cow-belt back in Patna, and the oasis in the middle of that madness was that fiction that was part of English courses in school? Yup, Switzerland is a bit like that at first sight. And I am in love!

But before I get into the usual travelogue mode (which I promise I will, eventually), there is a bit of a story about how we landed in Europe in the first place. Traveling a continent, in your usual 5 countries in 20 days but staying true to doing more than the touristy things, needs planning. And in most middle class minds, it needs a LOT OF MONEY. And you just know that by intuition before you even get to the prices (more on this later).

But R and I, like I said, have had a rather strange year. It was not bad. Hell no, not by a long shot. But it sure has been a series of disappointments. Add to that some untimely deaths in the family and some perhaps timely, the guilt of staying away and not being able to do much for the family (even if you try, because phone calls don’t really mean you’re there, do they?) and the guilt and a strange kind of insolence for being blamed for being insensitive – especially when it’s true. Not being able to own your time, and often it may seem like your destiny and other such realisations and emotions hit us in our faces and had us flat down for a few days. And the only way for us to move on from there was to plan something drastic. And while I was being usual self, wallowing in inertia more than self pity, I woke up one morning to R’s suggestion “Let’s just do Europe this year, forget everything else.”

Now if you knew my husband, you’d get started on an impulse before he gets a chance to rethink. And that is exactly what we did.

Now Europe is a plan that’s been in the works, in my very middle class small town manner, started since DDLJ. 20 days on what I thought till about a 3 months ago was called “Eurail”, that “backpacking through Europe” is a bit of a middle class 90s Indian cliche. I was quite sure this trip needed to be independent, not tour bound, half-backpacking, half-grown up and needed a few things in big amounts – time, a fair bit of disposable money, and more time. And in the middle of grown up responsibilities, must-go-to-India-every-year madness, buying a house, agency life, a series of little South East Asia trails every year, and not the most amazingly organised financial sense (that’s ALL MINE!) we always have limited spurts of both!

But tell you what, all of it is not necessarily true once you get down to the planning – that need for unlimited money and unlimited time to do Europe? Nope, all it needs is intent and the ability to juggle and figure out what’s important enough for you to splurge your time and money on, where you can cut corners, and what your expectation out of a Europe trip is. It’s a very, very personal thing. There are no must-do’s, packing clothes in rolls doesn’t necessarily save space, you don’t necessarily need to go to Oktoberfest if you travel in October (unless you really, really want to) or stay in shared hostels or share loos with strangers if you’re finicky about it (we are). You don’t.

In my mind, I am writing a Europe travelogue for 30-somethings. Who may have crossed the age of hostels and backpacking but are still young enough not to need a tour to hand hold them through Europe. It may work for me, it may not work for you. But at least I will get to write, so.

Up next – Europe for 30-something un-backpackers. Watch out.

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